The recent news that yet another “impenetrable” hacking forum has been taken down has led me to ask here on the Htet Tayza blog; is it possible to beat cybercrime?
Evolution of online crime
The criminals of the world are the essence of Darwinian; as crime prevention methods have evolved, so have they. This has become particularly prevalent during the online age; the advent of digital technologies has provided criminals with new ways to break the law, and they keep finding ever more innovative methods to circumvent global efforts to crack down cybercrime.
The perfect example is hacking; the act of breaking into websites to steal data and personal information. In 2014, US online security company FireEye wrote: “Despite the over $20 billion invested in IT security technology last year, countless enterprises and government agencies have fallen victim to cyberattacks of incredible sophistication and complexity. This all points to the singular resounding reality: the next generation of cyberattacks is already here.”
Darkcode goes down
I have recently learned of the latest development in this ongoing saga. According to the BBC, a coalition of authorities from 20 countries, including the US, has taken down a forum called Darkcode and arrested 28 people.
Darkcode was a hacking forum used by the notorious ‘Lizard Squad’ hackers and other cybercriminals, which was allegedly used to share hacking tools and information. This included details of zero-day attacks; techniques which exploited product flaws that neither these products’ creators nor the wider security industry knew of and therefore, couldn’t protect against.
Believed to be impenetrable
One of the US state attorneys involved in the investigation commented that “we have dismantled a cyber-hornets’ nest… which was believed by many, including the hackers themselves, to be impenetrable.”
Part of the reason the site was believed to be unbreakable is that it protected its own security at all costs. The US’ National Crime Agency explained: “Only those proposed for membership by an existing user could join, but not until they posted a resume of the skills and achievements that could contribute to the criminal community.”
The Agency went on to say: “There was a hierarchical membership structure, and the status of users determined who they could communicate with, and their access to the commodities and services on offer.”
Fight goes on
The Darkcode story shows that the fight goes on; cybercriminals evolve and the authorities tasked with bringing them to justice evolve right along with them. Look at another example; file sharing sites like Pirate Bay. Every few years the authorities find a way to have them removed from the net, only for the criminals to turn to the dark web or proxy servers or other bypassing tools to put them back up again.